& Islamic Review
January February 1998
Vol. 75 No. 1
Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore Inc., U.S.A. u
1315 Kingsgate Road, Columbus, Ohio, 43221-1504, U.S.A.
The Light was founded in 1921 as the organ of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam (Ahmadiyya Association for the propagation of Islam) of Lahore, Pakistan. The Islamic Review was published in England from 1913 for over 50 years, and in the U.S.A. from 1980 to 1991. The present periodical represents the beliefs of the world-wide branches of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam, Lahore.
Editor: Dr. Zahid Aziz. Format and Design: The Editor.
Circulation: Mrs. Samina Sahukhan, Dr. Noman I. Malik.
Reading of the Holy Quran: the right and proper way versus ritual use
Proper way as taught by the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet, revitalised by the Mujaddid of the time
Speech in Lahore, 28 December 1997
by the Editor
[Editor’s Note: I give below the English version of a speech I delivered on the above subject in Urdu in Lahore last December.]
It is stated in the Holy Quran regarding this Book of Allah:
"This is a book that We have revealed to thee, abounding in good [or mubarik, blessed], that they may ponder over its verses, and that the men of understanding may be mindful." — 38:29.
This shows that the good or the blessing that the Holy Quran contains can only be attained by a human being if he or she ponders over its verses and becomes mindful of its teachings. Nowhere is it stated in the Quran that a person can benefit from the Quran merely and only by reading out its words without any knowledge of what the words are saying. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said:
"People read the Holy Quran, but do so like a parrot, without thinking or understanding.… Neither the reader nor the listeners understand what is said. The manner of reciting the Holy Quran has become merely that two or three parts are read, without knowing what was read. At the most, they read it tunefully and pronounce the letters qaf and ‘ain properly. It is no doubt good to read the Quran in a fine and melodious way, but the real purpose of reciting the Holy Quran is to find out the truths and knowledge contained in it and to bring about a change within oneself." — Malfuzat, vol. 1, pp. 428, 429.
When Hazrat Mirza was once asked the question, "How should the Holy Quran be read?", he replied:
"The Holy Quran must be read with thought, reflection and concentration. It says in Hadith: ‘Many reciters of the Quran are cursed by the Quran’. He who reads the Quran and does not act upon it is cursed by the Quran. While reciting the Quran, when you reach a mention of mercy ask mercy from God, at a mention of chastisement ask protection from God’s chastisement. The Quran should be read with thought and reflection and you must act upon it." — Malfuzat, vol. 9, pp. 199, 200.
Of course, when a child is learning to recite the words of the Holy Quran, that is a different matter, and it cannot be expected that the child should be taught the full meaning of all that he reads. Even at that stage though, the child can be given some indication of the general meaning, particularly when reading the verses dealing with the simpler subjects that a child can understand (for example, the oneness of God and simple moral teachings). In any case, that is only a passing phase of life, not a permanent state.
What is wrong is that grown up people, who have learnt the recitation of the Quran, continue throughout their lives reciting the Quran without ever trying to know its meaning, without attempting to implement its teachings in their lives, in the belief that the mere recitation is a deed which brings Divine reward. If it were true that mere recitation earned such reward, how could the Holy Prophet possibly say that some reciters of the Quran are cursed by it?
Misuse of Quran for ritual purposes.
As Muslims generally ceased to try learning the meanings of the Quran many centuries ago, and therefore were unable to receive its real blessing, they invented their own ways of deriving its blessings. These rituals and customs find no support in the Holy Quran, the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, or the lives of his Companions. Let us take what is known as khatam-i Quran, or finishing the Holy Quran. It is not found anywhere in the teachings of Islam that on certain occasions, of celebration or mourning, people should gather and be assigned various portions of the Quran to read so that the whole of the Quran gets read. Firstly, no one gains any knowledge of the Quran by reading it in this way. And secondly, this is opposed to the method of reading the Quran as instructed in the Quran itself and as advised by the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
Quran on how to read the Quran.
The Holy Quran says:
"Recite the Quran in a slow, leisurely manner (tarteel)." — 73:4.
This is also mentioned in a hadith in Bukhari, and Maulana Muhammad Ali comments upon it as follows in his Urdu commentary of Bukhari:
"Reciting with tarteel means to enunciate the letters distinctly and to read the words slowly in order that attention is turned to its meaning. The instruction to read the Quran slowly, so that it moves the heart, is found not only in Hadith but is also clearly given in the Quran."
He then goes on to say that to read the Quran hurriedly and to finish it at high speed is clearly opposed to this instruction of the Quran. Then in Bukhari we are referred to another verse of the Quran on this subject which is the following:
"And it is a Quran We have made distinct, so that you may read it to people by slow degrees and We have revealed it in portions" — 17:106.
Here it is said that the revelation of the Quran to the Holy Prophet came in portions so that it could be read to people slowly, and not all at once.
Finishing the Quran.
Now when a man believes that he will receive Divine reward and blessings by finishing the Quran, or some assigned part of it, then he will wish to complete its reading as quickly as possible. He will never abide by the instruction, as explained above, to read it slowly and thoughtfully because he believes that the quicker he finishes it, the earlier he will get his reward. His sole aim and object is to reach the end, for that is where he believes that his reward lies. Therefore, to stop and ponder over its words is a hindrance to his objective. It is thus clearly seen that those whose aim is merely and only to finish the Quran, they read it in a manner which is directly opposed to how it should be read according to the Quran itself and the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
It is recorded in Hadith reports that a man asked the Holy Prophet, in how many days should he finish the Quran? The Holy Prophet replied, In one month. The man said, I am able to do it sooner. The Holy Prophet said, Then do it in twenty days. The man repeated that he was able to do it in shorter time. The Holy Prophet said, Then do it in fifteen days. And so it went on till the Holy Prophet came down to five days, and would not reduce it any further. In another report the Holy Prophet said: "He who completes the Quran in less than three days, he has not understood it." So the Holy Prophet himself fixed a limit of three days or of five days (according to different reports) before which the Quran should not be finished, and he clearly gave the reason that if you finish it in less time than this then you have not understood it.
The Holy Quran itself has put it quite beautifully:
"Recite out of the Quran that which is easy for you." — 73:20.
In other words, reciting of the Quran should not be undertaken as a burdensome task, subjecting one to hard labour, but one should read as much as one finds easy to do.
Reading the Quran for the dead.
One of the rituals that people have invented for obtaining blessing from the Holy Quran is to recite it for a deceased person, with the belief that the dead person will be rewarded as a result of the Quran being read for his "sake", and that the benefit of the recitation "reaches" the dead person. Now if we consider it rationally, it is the living who need to receive the Quran because only the living can learn from it and act upon it. The poor fellow who has died cannot now change his life to bring it in more accord with the teachings of the Quran.
It is, moreover, curious that very few Muslims are concerned about taking the message of the Quran to the living, but millions of Muslims are everyday reciting the Quran to make its benefit reach the dead.
The second point is that if it were true that we can bring benefit to the dead by reciting the Quran for their sake then the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his Companions would undoubtedly have engaged in this practice. However, we find no sign or trace of it in the history of the Holy Prophet’s time or that of his Companions. Their relations and near and dear ones died but it is nowhere to be found that, upon someone’s death, the Holy Prophet or his Companions finished the Quran for the deceased. The Holy Prophet himself died, leaving behind wives, a daughter, near relations and a large number of Companions, who were admittedly the greatest Muslims of all time. Yet none of them are recorded as having recited or completed the Quran for his sake. Similarly, the events of the deaths of Abu Bakr, Umar and other famous persons are reported in Hadith, but there is no mention that anyone finished the Quran for their souls.
When Hazrat Mirza was asked: "Can [the benefit of] acts of charity and the reading of the Holy Quran reach the deceased?" he replied as follows:
"The benefit of acts of charity done in the name of the deceased does reach the dead person. But to give them benefit by reciting the Quran for them is not established from the Holy Prophet Muhammad or the Companions. Instead, you should pray for the dead. To give in charity in the name of the deceased, and to pray for them, is established from the example of 124,000 prophets. But that charity is better which the deceased gave with his own hands because that way he proves his faith." — Malfuzat, vol. 8, p. 405.
Here Hazrat Mirza has explained succinctly what may or may not be done for the dead. It is only prayer for their forgiveness and the giving of charity that is taught by Islam.
Giving of charity on behalf of the dead.
As regards the giving of charity, what Hazrat Mirza has said in the above extract is that the real and substantial spiritual benefit that a deceased receives is from the charity or good works done by him or her in life. The benefit received by the deceased when those after him give in charity on his behalf is, in fact, only a consequence and reflection of the deeds which the deceased performed during his life.
The principle of giving in charity for the dead is based on a hadith according to which a man put to the Holy Prophet Muhammad that his mother had died suddenly and that if she could speak now she would give in charity. So his question was that if he gave in charity on her behalf, would it benefit her? The Holy Prophet replied, Yes. We learn from this that if a person does good in life, and dies without completing some good deed which he or she intended to perform, then if that good work is completed on his or her behalf by someone else, the deceased too receives some credit (apart, of course, from the person who actually does it).
Commenting on this and similar other hadith reports, Maulana Muhammad Ali writes:
"These hadith reports show that the deceased can benefit to some extent from the deeds of others, but it must be remembered that, as these reports clearly tell us, this is in case of such a close connection between the two that the doer of the deeds becomes a substitute for the deceased. In such matters we are not entitled to broaden the scope of the teaching of the Shariah so as to invent an entirely new principle." — Bayan-ul-Quran, note under verse 53:39.
Similarly in his Urdu translation and commentary of Bukhari, entitled Fazl-ul-Bari, Maulana Muhammad Ali writes regarding the above-mentioned hadith report that we cannot create from its words a general principle of the dead receiving benefit from charity on their behalf, and we must not exceed the limit of the statement in the hadith. In this instance, the deceased had intended while alive to give in charity, but death did not spare her. So under these circumstances, if the son fulfils her intention then she also receives some benefit for the doing of the act.
Other rituals at time of death.
Among the other practices commonly carried out following a death are the ceremonies held on the third day (qul reading) and the fortieth day (chelum), where parts of the Quran are read for the benefit of the deceased (besides other baseless rituals). Hazrat Mirza was asked the question: "Does the deceased receive the reward of the reading of the qul?" He replied:
"There is no basis in the Shariah for the qul reading. What benefits the deceased are charity, prayer and the asking of forgiveness. However, the mullahs certainly receive reward from this ceremony. So if they are considered as the dead — and, in fact, the mullahs are spiritually dead — then we do agree [that the dead receive the reward]! We wonder how these people entertain such expectations. Religion has come to us from the Holy Prophet, and it contains no trace of any such thing. The Companions too died. Were qul readings held for any of them? This is an innovation (bid‘ah) which, like other innovations, came into being centuries later." — Malfuzat, vol. 6, p. 390.
Maulana Muhammad Ali writes:
"There is no authority of the Holy Prophet for the Qul ceremony on the third day, or for the ceremonies connected with the tenth and fortieth days after death. Nor can they be considered as acts of charity, for they are not for the benefit of the poor." — A Manual of Hadith, ch. xv, note 22.
Customs versus example of Prophet Muhammad.
The argument which Hazrat Mirza has advanced against these rituals is that no sign or trace of them is to be found in the lives of the Holy Prophet and his Companions. It was an important part of Hazrat Mirza’s mission of the reforms of Muslims to urge them to give up such customs and practices and instead follow the example of the Holy Prophet in their lives. As a result, the great elders and stalwarts of our Movement followed the sunna of the Holy Prophet in their lives and were sternly opposed to these customs which were prevailing among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. This was certainly the case with those of our great men whom I had the privilege of knowing personally, namely, Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, the late Hazrat Ameer Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan, Mr. Nasir Ahmad Faruqui, and Maulana Hafiz Sher Mohammad.
Regarding following customs vis-à-vis the real example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Mirza once referred to the verse of the Holy Quran:
"Say: If you love Allah, then follow me [i.e. Prophet Muhammad]. Allah will love you and forgive you your sins" (3:31)
"This is the one and only way of pleasing Allah: that you follow the Holy Prophet truly. We see that people are trapped in all sorts of customs. When someone dies, all kinds of innovations and customs are practiced, whereas they should just pray for the deceased. By following customs, it is not only that they are going against the Holy Prophet Muhammad but it is also an insult to him because the word of the Holy Prophet is not considered to be sufficient. If they had considered it to be sufficient, they would not have needed to invent customs of their own." — Malfuzat, vol. 5, p. 440.
Prayers from Quran and Hadith.
Another teaching of Islam which Muslims generally had reduced to a mere ritual is the use of the prayers that are taught in the Holy Quran and in the Holy Prophet’s hadith reports (masnun du‘a). It is believed that by merely repeating the set words, while neither knowing the meaning nor saying them with feeling from the heart, the prayer will be answered. Regarding these prayers, Hazrat Mirza said:
"For prayers, find words that melt the heart. It is not right to go after the masnun du‘a prayers so as to repeat them like mantras, while not recognizing the substance. It is essential to follow the sunna, but to create feeling in the heart is also in accordance with the sunna. …The one who worships words is forsaken by God. You should go after the essence. You must say the masnun du'a prayers for blessing, but try to reach their essence and reality." — Malfuzat, vol. 2, page 338. n
Prayer — the Sustenance of the Soul
Speech at the Ahmadiyya Convention,
Toronto, 2nd August 1997
by Dr. Mohammad Ahmad, Columbus, Ohio
"Surely We have given thee abundance of good. So pray to thy Lord and sacrifice. Surely thy enemy is cut off (from good)."
If we apply the first verse of this chapter (Al-Kauthar) to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as it has been commonly interpreted, it becomes difficult to reconcile it with the subsequent verse, "So pray to thy Lord and sacrifice," for we know for a fact that prayer and sacrifice were manifest in the most excellent and exemplary fashion in his life. Wherever in the Holy Quran the Holy Prophet is specifically addressed, the terms, "O Prophet," or "O Messenger," are used. In the words of this chapter, therefore, man in general is addressed. The question which, then, comes to mind is, what is the abundance of good that all of mankind has been given?
The human body is one of these blessings; however, it can and does become unhealthy, and eventually perishes away; also in many ways it is inferior to certain animals. It is therefore an unlikely recipient for the abundance of good. The spirit within man is, however, something with which he is uniquely blessed. In the Holy Quran Allah tells us, "And We breathed into him our spirit." This spirit which comes from Allah is capable of reflecting His colors, as stated in the verse, "We take Allah’s color and who is better than Allah at coloring and we are His worshippers." The Hadith of the Holy Prophet also conveys this in the words, "create the moral characteristics of Allah within yourself." The spirit of man which becomes his soul (nafs) is what grows with him and becomes a part of his personality. It evolves to receive the heavenly fruits in this worldly life in the form of serenity of mind, and travels into the life Hereafter, where it is blessed with a new body to experience the everlasting blessings of heavenly paradise. The human soul is, therefore, the part of him capable of receiving the abundance of good, and prayer is what leads to this development. Man then becomes ready to sacrifice in the way of Allah, and cuts off his greatest enemy, the devil or the shaitan.
Prayer — nourishment for the spirit.
Just as food is essential for the life, health and development of the human body, the human soul also requires sustenance for its well-being, progress and existence. This spiritual nourishment is provided by the institution of prayer. This is the reason why so much stress has been laid on prayer in the Holy Quran and Hadith, and it is a major edict of Islam. The human spirit which receives such nourishment, stays healthy, develops, and remains alive. This is the greatest blessing for mankind. The Holy Quran explains this vital truth in these verses:
"And strain not thine eyes toward that with which We have provided different classes of them, (of) the splendour of this world’s life, that We may thereby try them. And the sustenance of thy Lord is better and more abiding. And enjoin prayer on thy people, and steadily adhere to it. We ask not of thee a sustenance. We provide for thee. And the (good) end is for guarding against evil." (20:131,132)
This tells us that Allah has created different classes of men. Each class of men has been given variable amounts of material possessions. Abundance of wealth, however, leads to a greater degree of trial, when man makes it the purpose of his life, despite the fact that the world is a temporary abode. The sorrow of leaving one’s prized possessions, and the realization in the Hereafter of the immense loss sustained by not having exerted oneself for the greatest blessing, i.e. the love of Allah, is in itself akin to the torment of hell. In addition, one will have to account for all that he was given in this world. If he considered his worldly possessions a trust of God, and spent out of them according to Divine injunctions, he would be secure. His punishment, otherwise, would be that of a dishonest person who betrays a trust given to him.
The attraction of material wealth is very evident in this age of tribulation of the Dajjal, and for the members of the Ahmadiyya Movement, to whom the identity of the Dajjal was correctly revealed by the Founder of this Movement, it is very essential not to be led astray by the abundance of wealth. The only way that this can be accomplished is explained in the Divine words that follow: "And the sustenance of thy Lord is better and more abiding. And enjoin prayer on thy people, and steadily adhere to it. We ask not of thee a sustenance. We provide for thee. And the (good) end is for guarding against evil."
The believer is told not to greedily long for the fineries of this world. Worldly sustenance is temporary, and one is held accountable for its appropriate disposal. For him the everlasting reward is the spiritual sustenance which is bestowed without the need for accountability, and is of a far superior quality — this spiritual sustenance only being acquired through prayer.
The Holy Quran is such a wonderful book of knowledge and profound wisdom that while mentioning prayer, it first enjoins the believer to ask his family to keep it up, and also provide a strong personal example of steadfastness in doing so himself. This is because even in case of physical sustenance, man gives preference to his wife and children. A large portion of his earnings is spent for food and clothing and other necessities for his family. The man of the house, who is usually the breadwinner, spends very little on himself. Thus man is told that just as he worries for the physical maintenance of his family, he should be even more concerned for their spiritual well-being. In order to accomplish this he is advised not only to enjoin them to keep up prayer, but also to keep up prayer in person so as to set an example. Without a personal example it would be difficult to get their compliance.
We are then told that Allah provides us with physical sustenance, and does not ask us for it. In a similar manner, when He enjoins prayer, it is not for His own benefit. It is purely for the good of mankind, and provides him with spiritual sustenance which is essential, much superior, and everlasting. The final comment is that taqwa (keeping one’s duty, guarding against evil) leads to a better end. This means that we should keep up our duty in regards to the physical sustenance given to us, for we will be held accountable for it and utilize the spiritual sustenance provided in the form of prayer to strengthen and keep our spirit healthy, so that we can control our animal desires. If the animal within is left unbridled, it will weaken the defenses against evil (taqwa), resulting in loss and torment of hell.
Keeping up of prayer means that it is not merely recited but said with full understanding, and the realization that one is standing in front of Allah. It should be considered a great privilege to be given the opportunity to stand before the Best of judges, five times a day. The words of the prayer create the most excellent concept of the Divine Being, and His attributes (provided, prayer is kept up, and not just said in a hurry). Prayer also strengthens the belief in our hearts that Allah, the Possessor of all perfect attributes, is with us all the time; He sees us, and we can pray to Him wherever we are. He is able to hear our prayers, and is Aware of our inner secrets. This is why during prayer we stand with our hands folded, bow down and prostrate; and some of the prayer is recited loudly while the rest is said in silence. When faith firmly becomes established in all of these concepts, the truth of the Quranic statement, "Surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil" (29:45), is fully manifested. This means that no dirt or evil collects in one’s heart, or remains behind as a part of his actions. He reaches the state of taqwa or guarding against evil, which is a great achievement.
Spiritual ascension through prayer.
The Holy Prophet said: "Prayer is the ascension (Mi‘raj) of the believer." Now the event of Mi‘raj (Ascension) is well-known to the Muslims. The Holy Prophet in a state of vision (kashf) ascended to the spiritual heavens. He progressed in spiritual status beyond the level of all other prophets. At a certain point in this spiritual journey, the Angel Gabriel who escorted him also parted his company, stating that from there on he would not be able to withstand the manifestation of the Divine presence. He advised the Holy Prophet to go on further by himself. As the Holy Prophet proceeded, he came in the presence of Allah. He sat down respectfully with his legs folded in front of Allah and said:
"All services rendered by words, and bodily actions, and sacrifice of wealth are due to Allah."
To this Allah replied:
"Peace be on thee, O Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings."
To this the Holy Prophet answered:
"Peace be upon us, and on the righteous servants of Allah."
What other conversation took place during this spiritual encounter is not recorded. The extraordinary precious treasure or reward, however, that he brought back with him was the permission for his followers to pray five times a day. The lessons that we learn from these events of the Ascension (M i‘raj) are as follows:
1. If we follow completely the footsteps of the Holy Prophet, we can ascend to those highest levels in the life after death, where we have to go eventually.
2. By completely following the path of the Holy Prophet, one can progress further than the reach of the angels. The Quran also tells us that if a man truly becomes the vicegerent of Allah, angels are committed to bow before him.
3. The spiritual status achieved by the Holy Prophet is the ultimate stage of Fana-fi-Allah (losing oneself completely in Allah). At this stage every word, action, and possession is spent in the way of Allah, and under His direction. This is apparent from the words of the Holy Prophet: "All prayers and worship rendered through words, bodily actions and sacrifice of wealth are due to Allah."
4. As a result of this complete obedience and service with humility, Allah rewarded the Holy Prophet with peace, mercy and everlasting blessings in this world, and the Hereafter. He immediately conveyed these to his followers, and all the righteous servants of Allah, because he knew that whenever Allah says something it is fulfilled. This is clearly indicated by his words, "Peace be upon us and the righteous servants of Allah." In these words we see a remarkable display of the feelings of selflessness, love and caring for humanity that the heart of the Holy Prophet was endowed with. These words also show that the spirit which is from God remains restless until it achieves peace by communion with Allah through prayer.
5. Going directly into the Divine presence is a historically unique occurrence. What did the Holy Prophet request from Allah? He asked Allah to bless His followers with the same honor and blessing that he was blessed with in obtaining nearness to God. The permission to pray five times a day was granted for this very purpose. How unfortunate is the one who keeps himself deprived of this blessing, and does not keep up prayer; or merely recites it as a custom without acquiring its full benefit.
6. The Holy Prophet has called prayer the Ascension (Mi‘raj) of the believer. This tells us that prayer is the means to get close to Allah, and recognize Him. The conversation which took place between Allah and him, is recited in the obligatory prayer service after the prostration. From this it is quite apparent that prostration is the posture of closest proximity to the Divine Being. Prolong your prostration and understand what is being recited, i.e., "My Lord is free of all faults, and He is the most High." In reciting these words, we are imploring Allah, Who has created the means for our spiritual evolution; just as He is free of all faults, may He nurture our spiritual progress, so that we can obtain freedom from all our shortcomings; just as He is the most High, due to His goodness and perfect attributes, may He create good qualities in us. If this prayer is rendered sincerely, in it lie all the blessings of this life, and the Hereafter. Besides the prayers of the Hadith and the Holy Quran, if one has to make any other request before Allah, he can pray in his own language. Say prayers with the shedding of tears, for prostration is the time when one is closest to God. When a child wraps his arms around his mother and cries, maternal feelings of love and mercy are aroused. Crying of the suppliant in prostration evokes an outpouring of Divine mercy; for who is more Merciful and Bounteous than Allah?
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Reformer (Mujaddid) of the fourteenth century Hijra and the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, expresses this in one of his books, Barakat-ud-du‘a, or ‘The Blessings of Prayer’:
"This strange occurrence took place in the desolate country of Arabia that hundreds and thousands of dead were raised to life in a short period of time and those who were decadent for generations took the coloring of Allah. Those devoid of vision began to see, and the speechless became fluent in Divine knowledge. The world saw a change which nobody had heard of, or witnessed before. Do you know what it was? It was the crying in the dark nights of one lost in the love of Allah that brought about this momentous change, and such miraculous happenings were manifested which seemed impossible at the hands of the helpless unlettered one, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him."
He then states:
"I am also observing this from my own personal experience that the effect of prayer is stronger than that of fire and water. In fact, in the realm of natural means, there is nothing more powerful than prayer."
May Allah give us the strength and understanding to keep up prayer — the means of spiritual sustenance. Ameen.
Lessons in the Quran – 6
Translation of Mr. N.A. Faruqui’s book Mu‘arif-ul-Qur’an
Translated by Dr. Mohammad Ahmad, Ohio
Man Created for a Higher Objective.
Today we will discuss the meaning of the verse:
"Guide us on the right path (Ihdi-nas-siraatal-mustaqeem )."
The prayer in this verse is a vital part of Al-Fatihah because its explanation in the next verse provides the answer to a very important question: What is the purpose of man’s creation? No other revealed scripture in its present form, or a sage, a scientist or philosopher has been able to give an answer to this. Scientists have discovered today, what the Holy Quran made known 1400 hundred years ago in the verse:
"And He has made subservient to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, all from Himself" (45:13).
The purpose of creation of the whole universe is, therefore, to be beneficial and subservient to mankind. Further on, the Holy Quran tells us that this was brought about by Allah appointing His vicegerent on earth, and by giving him knowledge of all things, so he could dominate all creation (2:30,31). If the purpose of all creation is to serve mankind, then what is the purpose of man’s creation? As mentioned earlier, the answer to this is found nowhere else today except in the Holy Quran. If man does not know the reason for his creation, then his whole life, in fact the creation of the universe which was meant for him, would fail to achieve its purpose.
Let us consider what man himself has thought of as the goal of his creation. With all the knowledge and scientific discoveries of the modern age he does not know any more than what was known by his ancestors thousands of years ago despite of their ignorance. That is, he should eat, drink, get married, have children and make some worldly progress. Was this the purpose of creation behind the whole universe, a single atom of which contains a world of wonderment? Was it meant to serve mankind only for his limited life span? The whole universe, according to scientific research, took billions of years to prepare for the arrival of mankind. Was he created only to perform a few bodily functions and fade into the dust? This could be the purpose of creating animal life, but for it to be the destiny of mankind, for whom the whole universe was created, would appear to be an exercise in futility.
The Path of the Righteous.
Human intellect and nature cannot be satisfied by such a desultory objective. Mankind had so far accepted this because no one had provided the correct answer. The light of truth was first shed on this by the Book of Divine wisdom revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The answer to this secret lies in the spiritually vital prayer of Al-Fatihah, "Guide us on the right path." What is that path, and where does it lead to? The explanation for this is provided in the verse, "The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors." Who are these people and what favors were bestowed upon them?
The Holy Quran informs us about them in the verse:
"And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they are those upon whom Allah has bestowed favors from among the prophets (nab-iy-yin), and the truthful (sid-diq-qeen), and the faithful (shu-ha-da), and the righteous (saa-li-heen), and a goodly company are they!" (4:69).
The verse just before this states: "And We would certainly have guided them in the right path" (4:68).
The question which now comes to mind is what kind of favors were they given? Most people with a worldly outlook consider wealth and power as the greatest blessing. With the exception of a few, no prophet or righteous person received this, and even those who did, considered it as something very insignificant. If material wealth and worldly power are the favors asked for in the Al-Fatihah, one must admit that the faithless and worldly people get the most of it. The greatest blessing bestowed upon the prophets, the truthful, and the righteous servants of Allah is in fact the recognition of the Divine Being. The Holy Quran explains this in the verse:
"Then as for those who believe and hold fast by Him, He will admit them to His mercy (spiritual blessings) and grace (worldly blessings) and guide them to Himself on a right path" (4:175).
The prayer for the ‘right path,’ which is the life-giving element of Al-Fatihah, leads to the source of all righteousness, the Divine Being Himself. Other verses in the Holy Quran further clarify this, for example:
"Surely my Lord is on the right path," (11:56)
and the verse:
"He said: This is the right way with Me" (15:41).
The Holy Prophet Muhammad was sent as a messenger to invite people towards Allah. This is clearly stated in several places in the Holy Quran as in the verse:
"Say: This is my way, I call to Allah, with certain knowledge (basirat) — I and those who follow me" (12:108).
Basirat, or certain knowledge of Allah, means having such a close relationship with Allah as to be able to visualize Him with the mind’s eye; such being the case of the Holy Prophet and those who follow him. Therefore, all the truthful (sid-diq-qeen) and faithful ones (shu-ha-da — the real meaning of the word being those who, after acquiring knowledge of internal or spiritual matters, convey it to others), and the righteous (saa-li-heen — those who completely follow the Holy Prophet) are the ones who attain nearness to God, the proof of this being that Allah communicates with them.
Several other verses of the Holy Quran give further confirmation to the statement that the real purpose of man’s creation is recognition of the Divine Being. For example, the Holy Quran states:
"Surely this is a Reminder; so let him, who will, take a way to his Lord" (73:19).
In another verse it is stated:
"And those who strive hard for Us, We shall certainly guide (hadai-na) them in Our ways" (29:69).
In Arabic language the word hidayat means not only pointing towards the right path, but also guiding one along on it till he reaches his destination.
Testimony of a Righteous Servant of Allah.
What a great blessing it is to attain closeness to Allah Who is the Possessor and Source of all excellence and goodness. Let us hear about it from the mouth of one who in this age of atheism and materialism, by following the Holy Quran and the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, was able to find God and establish communion with Him — this person being none other than Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the 14th Century Hijra, who writes in one of his books:
"How unfortunate is that person who still does not know that he has a God Who is One and Who has power over all things. Our heaven is our Lord. Our greatest pleasures lie within Him, because we saw Him and found every excellence within Him. This treasure is worth taking even if one has to lay down his life for it. This precious jewel is worth buying, even if one has to relinquish his self for it. O deprived ones! quicken your pace towards this fountain, for it will quench your thirst. It is the fountain of life which shall save you. What should I do to focus your attention towards this good news? With what kind of drum beat should I proclaim in the streets that ‘This is our God,’ so that people would listen? What medicine should I prescribe for their ears so that they hear this message? If you become of God, then be certain that He is yours. While you are in slumber He lies awake for you. You will be unaware of your enemy, and God will be watching him, and destroy his plans. You do not yet know the Omnipotence of your God. If you knew about it you would never grieve for this world. One who owns a treasure, does he ever scream, or cry, or become despondent with the loss of a penny? If you knew about this treasure, that God will help you in time of need, why should you be besides yourself in pursuit of worldly gain? God is a Beloved and Precious Treasure. Be cognizant of His blessings, He is your Helper in every step you take."
In another place Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad writes:
"The real motivator of my overwhelming concern is that I have discovered a gold mine, and I have been informed of a quarry of precious stones. I have been fortunate to find a shining and extremely valuable diamond from this mine, the value of which is such that if I distribute it amongst all my fellow beings, they would all become wealthier than that person who in the world today has the largest quantity of gold and silver. What is that diamond? ‘The Truthful God.’"
Searching for and finding Allah, therefore, is the greatest purpose for which man was created, the prayer for which is the essence of Al-Fatihah. There is a Hadith of the Holy Prophet in which he says that God informed me of this, "I was a hidden treasure, so I determined that others should have knowledge of Me, therefore I created man." This is a manifestation of the excellence and goodness which is the meaning of the word Allah. Allah, Who is the Treasure House of all attributes and excellences, created mankind to give away these treasures. There could be no greater honor or benevolence for mankind.
by the Editor
The following books have been retypeset and reprinted at the close of 1997 by the a.a.i.i.l, u.s.a.
Islam to East and West, by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, 142 pages.
This is a collection of twelve lectures of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, with a Foreword by his friend and co-worker Shaikh Mushir Husain Kidwai of Gadia, and first published in 1935. The lectures were delivered in various places in the world, six in England, one in Paris, two in India, one in Burma, one in Singapore, and one in Cairo; hence the name of the book. The first lecture in the book (pages 1–12), and earliest in time, was delivered in Paris at the 6th Congress of Religions in July 1913. That a Muslim should be presenting Islam in that age to Europeans in the very centre of modern Western civilization is in fact a great tribute to the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, who enthused his followers with the fervour to take up the cause of Islam against all odds, in the darkest time in Muslim history. And his presentation of Islam in the first and other lectures — as a universal and rational faith, and one that can lead a human being to the highest spiritual development — has not been surpassed by any type of propagation work which other Muslims have done in the West up to now.
The first lecture bears the unmistakable stamp of the exposition of Islam given by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Let me quote one passage from it:
"If the world in its material progress can produce every now and then, say Newtons, Herschells, and Addisons, where lies the impossibility of seeing Jesuses, Krishnas and Buddhas again? Are we not endowed with the same constitutions; and does not physical equality demand spiritual equality? That it is possible, we find in the Quran. Nay, we have been given similar promises elsewhere. Did not Jesus, as well as Krishna and Buddha, promise their re-appearances? Jesus also explains how this re-appearance will take place. It is not the coming of the former man, but the appearance of the new with the spiritual semblance of the old." (page 9)
Therefore what the Khwaja presented before the Congress of religions in Paris is exactly the Islamic philosophy of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Moreover, a Sunni Muslim has written a glowing Foreword, quoting from the various lectures, and saying that:
"…the late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din did not present ‘Neo Islam’ but the old Islam in its true colours whether he did it in Paris or Cairo, London or Bombay, Woking or Rangoon or anywhere in the world. Everywhere he presented the Islam of thirteen centuries. He presented it boldly and convincingly." (page i)
But curiously, the same expression of belief as quoted above from the Khwaja, when it is quoted from the writings of Hazrat Mirza it becomes a target of objections on the part of our Sunni friends, including the admirers of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din! We hope that, by reading the lectures in Islam to East and West, the admirers of the late Khwaja will see that the Islam which he presented to East and West is just what he learnt at the feet of his master, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement.
The Sources of Christianity, by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, pages xii+104.
This is a famous book in which the Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din has shown, on the basis of modern Western researches, that the Christian church doctrines relating to the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, as well as other details of these events as believed in by the church, are derived from the pagan cults of sun-worship which prevailed all over the world. It is likely that the name of this book, first published in 1924, is modelled on the title of an earlier book, The Sources of Islam, by a Christian missionary Rev. St. Clair-Tisdall and translated into English by Sir William Muir. That book had sought to prove that various beliefs and practices of Islam are copied from preceding religious communities, and not based on Divine revelation. Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din’s Sources of Christianity seeks to show that it is the church dogma that is not of Divine origin but based on pagan myths.
One of the tasks of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, in his capacity as the Promised Messiah, was, as described in Hadith, "to break the cross". The foundations of that breaking of the cross were laid by Hazrat Mirza, and then carried forward by his followers such as Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, as may be seen by reading this excellent, pioneering book.
Table Talk, by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, 65 pages.
This small book deals with a number of religious and modern themes such as the object of religion, life after death, Darwin and Evolution, etc. In the Foreword the author explains that it is written for:
"…numbers of thinking men and women for whom religion, any religion, is becoming a dead-letter simply because the religions with which they are familiar are based on a mysticism antagonistic to their reason; or because these religions regard progress of any sort in a spirit of hostility".
His aim is to show that "inasmuch as Human Reason is in itself a Divine gift, there exists, and can exist no possible discrepancy between scientific truth in its constant development, and the Eternal Truth in its unalterable fixity, as revealed by God Himself thirteen hundred years ago".
Fundamentals of the Christian faith in the light of the Gospels, by Maulana Sadr-ud-Din, 62 pages.
The author was the second head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement and the man who built the famous mosque in Berlin in the mid-1920s. This booklet was originally written in Urdu and first published in English in 1963, in order to combat Christian missionary activity among Muslims in Pakistan some thirty years ago. Quoting from the Gospels profusely, this work shows that Jesus did not preach the present-day Christian doctrines relating to basic beliefs such as atonement, inherited sin, trinity and Jesus’ sonship.
The Crumbling of the Cross, by Mumtaz Ahmad Faruqui, 183 pages.
First published in 1973, the aim of this book is to show that Jesus did not die on the cross but was alive when his body was removed from it; and that subsequently he travelled to Kashmir where he continued his preaching to the lost tribes of the Israelites, who had settled in Afghanistan and Kashmir some centuries earlier, and then died there and is buried in the city of Srinagar. The book is a summary of the earlier, comprehensive work on this subject, Jesus in Heaven on Earth by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad, first published in 1952, and also brings the subject up to the date of 1973. These later discoveries are dealt with in the Appendices of the book which occupy a total of 72 pages of the book’s 183 pages. In these Appendices the topic of the Turin Shroud is dealt with at length, but naturally it does not deal with events in this connection that have taken place since 1973. In fact, when this book was published the Turin Shroud was little known to the general public and only came to world-wide fame a few years later.
This book is particularly valuable for those who are not inclined to go through the detailed and lengthy work Jesus in Heaven on Earth, and of course it contains newer information to the benefit of all.
History and Doctrines of the Babi Movement, by Maulana Muhammad Ali, 115 pages.
First published in 1933, it deals with the origin, history and teachings of the Babi Movement and the Bahai religion, which began in Iran. The vast breadth of the writings of the Maulana is truly astounding, a point which you realize more so when some obscure book of his, such as this, is brought to light. It contains useful information for confronting the missionaries of the Bahai religion.
The Bahai faith grew out of the Babi Movement, which itself began as a Shia sect of Islam. Its belief is that the period of validity of the Quran and the shariah of Islam ended in the middle of the 19th century, being replaced by this new religion. The Bahais claim that Quran itself prophesied that Islam would be replaced by a new religion and law brought by a new messenger in the future. They cite some verses from the Quran to try to prove that messengers from God will still come after the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The Qadianis also cite the same verses of the Quran to prove that prophets can still come. The difference is that the Bahais hold that messengers can come with a new shariah while the Qadianis believe that the messengers who come will follow the existing Islamic shariah.
In fact, the arguments that the Qadianis put forward from Islam itself to show that the Holy Prophet was not the final prophet have been borrowed by them from the Bahais, who preceded the Qadiani Movement by a few decades. But in borrowing these ideas the Qadianis have forgotten that those same arguments can also be used to prove that messengers with new religions can come after the Holy Prophet. Thus the Qadianis are treading on very dangerous ground when they use those same arguments which the Bahais employ. It may be noted that the Qadianis in their early, formative years sometimes discussed the idea of even making Hazrat Mirza into a prophet with a book, but they pulled back from the brink.
The development of the Bahai religion from a fringe Muslim sect to an entirely new faith, outside Islam, should serve as a warning to the Qadianis of what extremism can lead to. We say this for their own benefit, that unless they give up their belief in the prophethood of Hazrat Mirza and in their khalifas as representatives of God on earth, they will always be hovering on the edge of Islam, with the ever-present risk of drifting out of it.
Anecdotes from the life of the Prophet Muhammad, by Mumtaz Ahmad Faruqui, 49 pages.
This booklet, first published in 1961, covers in simple language the life of the Prophet Muhammad, along with giving brief, instructive stories of his time, as the title implies. It will be found useful for youngsters from the ages of about 12 upwards.
News from the Internet
by the Editor
1. Absurdity by opponents of the Ahmadiyya Movement on Web site.
An organization called the Idara Dawat-O-Irshad of Alex., Virginia, is a virulently anti-Ahmadiyya body and has a Web site devoted to spreading allegations against the Ahmadiyya Movement and its Founder in particular. Their url is:
On their Home Page there is a topic entitled Selected Writings of Muslim Scholars and Personalities, which leads to a page listing names of several Muslim writers who had branded Ahmadis as being enemies of Islam and expelled from the fold of the Islamic faith. In this (notorious, as we may call it) list is the name of Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, two statements by whom are provided on the Web site.
The first of these was originally published in book form under the obnoxious title Islam and Ahmadism, in which Iqbal was responding to Pandit Nehru’s criticism of an earlier statement by Iqbal against the Ahmadiyya Movement. However, the Idara Dawat-O-Irshad has completely misunderstood why Iqbal wrote this booklet, and has put the following introductory comment above it:
This Statement was produced in 1936 to clarify Dr. Iqbal’s position and request the non-Muslim Governor (Pandit) of India to declare the Qadianis a non-Muslim minority.
This simply demonstrates their height of absolute ignorance of elementary historical facts. They seem to think that the title Pandit means governor, and that Nehru was in 1936 the "Governor of India", and Iqbal was appealing to him to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims! We even feel embarrassed in correcting this infantile nonsense by having to state the ordinary history known to everyone. Apart from the fact that there has never been a position of "Governor of India", in 1936 India was under British rule and Pandit Nehru was the leader of a political party, who, far from being any kind of governor, was sometimes in prison in those days. Dr. Iqbal died in 1938, long before Nehru became Prime Minister of India in 1947.
In fact, it was to the British government of India that Iqbal had appealed, in not this but an earlier statement, to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims. But as our opponents portray the Ahmadis as tools of British imperialism and they project their own leaders (such as Iqbal) as conducting a jihad against British rule, it would be impossible for them to admit that Iqbal was appealing to the British government to come to the rescue of the Muslim Umma and perform the great service for Islam of expelling Ahmadis from its fold. As our opponents are publishing such statements of Iqbal’s, we ask them this question: Do you consider that Iqbal was right to appeal to the British government of India to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim, and if so, do you therefore believe that the British government had the authority to determine who is a Muslim and who is not?
The second statement of Iqbal on this Web site is a short letter written by him to Pandit Nehru, and here again the following heading has been added:
Response of Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal to the Governor of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru
As the letter is clearly dated right at the top as June 21, 1936, it is even more astonishing that the Idara Dawat-O-Irshad organization should describe Nehru as "Governor of India".
We have noticed that in one sentence in this brief letter Iqbal writes as follows:
"I myself have little interest in theology, but had to dabble in it a bit in order to meet the Ahmadis on their own grounds."
Why is Iqbal regarded as a great Muslim philosopher when he himself says that he had "little interest" in theology? And he only "dabbled in it a bit" in order to refute the beliefs of the Ahmadis. Iqbal and his followers should then be grateful to Ahmadis, because of whom he was forced to learn some theology, otherwise he would have been totally ignorant of it!
2. Qadiani debater changes belief during debate.
Recently a Qadiani, debating on an Internet News group with our Fazeel Sahukhan, first expressed the original Qadiani belief that Jesus’ prophecy about the coming prophet who would have the name ‘Ahmad’, in verse 61:6 of the Holy Quran, applies (God forbid) not to the Holy Prophet Muhammad but to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. This is in line with the belief of the Qadiani Khalifa Mirza Mahmud Ahmad about Hazrat Mirza that "he was ‘the Ahmad’ spoken of in the prophecy of Jesus referred to in the Holy Quran in 61:6" (The Truth About the Split, p. 55), and that this passage "speaks directly" about Hazrat Mirza but "only indirectly" refers to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (ibid., p. 57).
However, the Qadiani debater then learnt from somewhere that their Movement’s own official English translation of the Quran says the following under this verse:
"Thus the prophecy mentioned in the verse applies to the Holy Prophet, but as a corollary it may also apply to the Promised Messiah…"
This is the exact opposite of Mirza Mahmud Ahmad’s statement that the prophecy speaks directly about Hazrat Mirza and only indirectly about the Holy Prophet! When the Qadiani debater realized this complete turn-around in their Movement’s position, he immediately embraced the latter belief. In the true tradition of his Movement, he did not stop to think or question why their belief had reversed, but accepted the latest instructions as the new gospel.
The fact is that after Mirza Mahmud Ahmad concocted and announced his heretical belief, that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was not the ‘Ahmad’ of the prophecy, the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement demolished it so comprehensively that the Qadianis were forced to retract their heresy. But, of course, their leadership cannot afford to admit that, otherwise their members might start wondering which of their other beliefs are wrong vis-à-vis the Lahore Ahmadis.